The Falcons opened the season Friday night in Providence, RI when they tangled with the Bruins. This was the front half of a home and home, with both teams wearing throwback jerseys.
This weekend marked the opening of the 75th Anniversary season of the American Hockey League. The new affiliate of the Blue Jackets, the Springfield Falcons, were selected as one of the six clubs in the league to take part in special anniversary celebrations.
The first few weeks of an AHL season are always interesting for a few reasons. First, roster moves are fluid. Just because somebody comes up big in the first few games doesn't mean he'll stick with the club. After all, Fort Wayne needs players too! Second, some borderline players that get some ice time might not consistently have what it takes, but they are more than willing to get into a scrap or two. It's also interesting to see how the players adapt to the coaching philosophy.
After a nice win in Providence, in which goaltender Dan Taylor played especially well, the teams came to Springfield for the back half of the home and home series. Coach Rob Riley (scouting in the Boston area for the Blue Jackets for the past several years) gave the start in goal to Daren Machesney. Despite AHL experience of over 100 games dating back to the '06-'07 season, Saturday night wasn't his night as he surrendered three goals on just six shots in nine minutes of work. Friday night's hero Dan Taylor then came in hoping to pick up where he left off the night before.
To a long time observer of hockey in Springfield where this game looked different that many that I've seen in the last six years (Oilers and Lightning eras) was that this group of Falcons never gave up. Less than one minute into the second period, the Bruins led 5-1. Two guys who seem to show up ready to work are Tom Sestito and Michael Blunden. Their efforts brought the game back to 5-3. Providence netted the next goal which took the wind out of the fans moreso than the players as there was a mass exodus at the 12 minute mark of the third period. The fans that left early nearly missed a comeback for the ages when Sestito set up Matt Calvert with just over three minutes remaining. Coach Riley pulled Taylor in favor of the sixth attacker. With just under a minute remaining, David Savard assisted on Michael Blunden's third goal of the young season to bring the Falcons back to 6-5.
Some might say it was playing just well enough to lose. I disagree with that. These Blue Jacketed Falcons never
gave up. They skated and worked as hard at 5-1 as they did at the start of the game. This was in and of itself a tremendous improvement over the past couple of years when a deficit of three goals was a certain loss...only
question with the Oilers farmhands was by how much!
Granted, for Sunday's third game in less than 48 hours, some fatigue may have set in. The new Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes) went on a four goal spree in about eight minutes of the second stanza. The previous night's comeback wasn't there on Sunday afternoon. Instead there was a lot of chippy, physical play that saw a combined 90 minutes of penalty time assessed. Here's Dan Taylor at work wearing the new CBJ colors:
The Falcons are now off until this coming Friday when they play the first of three consecutive road games while the Ringling Brothers take over the MassMutual Center. Friday the Falcons travel back to Providence to take on the Bruins for the third time in four games. Saturday night, it's up to Portland, ME to take on the Pirates (Buffalo Sabres). The weekend wraps up next Sunday afternoon in Manchester, NH when the Falcons meet the Monarchs (LA Kings). If all works out, I expect to be in Manchester for the game next Sunday.
Finally, there are some good resources to follow the Junior Jackets. The Falcons website at falconsahl.com has all the up to date info. They also include in game recaps youtube videos of goals and fights. Go figure! Also, the local newspaper reports are available at masslive.com. Also, if there are any questions that you have feel free to send them to me and I'll do my best to get the answers for you. Also, please check out the website at hockeyspringfield.org. I am a co-founder of the group and we are always interested in new members to explore the rich history of hockey here in Springfield.
Last but not least, this is my first original post here, so if there are any problems with the presentation...sorry 'bout that!